In 1988, Grant Morrison took a c-level superhero and wrote one of the best comics. Buddy Baker was a family man who had walked away into the activist world, using his rather simple powers (the ability to take on the ability of nearby animals) Morrison made one of the coolest comics and cemented himself as a force to be reckoned with. I’ll be honest, I stopped reading after Morrison left, it seemed like a good time to stop. I have no idea how later writers really handled the character. It was not a dislike for writers such as Jamie Delano, I like his Hellblazer work.
When I heard they were giving Animal Man a new series as part of the reboot of the DC Universe…I was surprised. I also wondered what they would do with the character. So I had to read the first issue. And what a first issue it was. While Superman was a clean reboot? Writer Jeff Lemire opted to take the “Hey, if it ain’t broke…” approach. Buddy Baker is introduced briefly in a text interview “conducted by Lemire” where we learn Buddy is acting in his first (indie) film and has done some stunt work. Buddy worries he comes off pretentious in the interview as he speaks to his wife Ellen. Buddy loves his family, and in an age where writers lament the troubles of writing happily married heroes? Lemire proves not only can it be done well, it can be compelling. Buddy has to explain to his daughter than they cannot have a puppy. It interferes with Buddy’s powers to bond to closely with one specific animal.
Then Buddy heeds the call of the hero-and we see something so uncommon in super-heroing…a hero reveling in his power, Buddy loves to fly. And then we see something we have not seen prior in the reboot so far. Cops who are friendly with a super-hero. They don’t take shots at him, they welcome him. They speak in friendly terms. And here we see something unique…a “villain” Buddy can relate to…a grieving father. Buddy confronts a man whose daughter died a few days earlier of cancer, but in his grief, he has come to believe the doctors are hiding here. The man fires a shot, and in a panic, Buddy reaches out and grabs a series of powers to save himself from the bullet and knock out the heart-broke crazed father.
Then, Buddy exhibits an unexpected side effect. The doctors look him over, but he swears he is fine. He then goes home and slips into bed, experiencing a vivid nightmare that suggests his family is in danger. He is awakened to discover his daughter exhibiting a frightening power. I do not want to say more, because if there is a new 52 book to read? This is it. Easily, this is the best book to come out so far. I am blown away and cannot wait for issue number two. Travel Foreman and Dan Green do a terrific job with the art. It is a nice bit of linework that effectively communicates Lemire’s script. I really cannot think of much to complain about other than I wish all the DCU reboots had been this good so far.